Dark Knight postscript

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Over the summer, I saw The Dark Knight three times in the theaters, and came away stunned and baffled each time — it elevates the superhero genre so much, in so many different ways, it makes Batman Begins look like Batman Forever and it makes the 1989 Batman look like the 1966 Batman. It solves many of the problems inherent in the genre and places the characters in a complex continuum, instead of a hermetically-sealed corporate product. In many ways it is still as broad and "comic-booky" as any superhero movie, but by taking its characters seriously as human beings and thinking their actions through on a broad social level it succeeds in creating cinematic characters that breathe and speak to us. It is also a god-damn freakin’ plot machine, a script so complex and ambitious that I can only sit and wonder at it. Ideas in movies are easy, but plot is hard, and superhero plots are some of the hardest of all, which is why no one — until The Dark Knight — has managed to pull it off. And then, to have the movie be about the hero’s failure instead of his triumph, and then to have it go on to be the biggest movie in the history of the genre, well, that’s some kind of amazing thing.

In August, I had a meeting with a producer who has had some experience producing Batman movies. The Dark Knight was still the number one movie in theaters that day, and conversation naturally turned to it.

ME: So — The Dark Knight.
ME: Right?
PRODUCER: I know. It’s amazing. I know.
ME: So. You tell me. You make this kind of movie. You tell me. How?
PRODUCER: How what?
ME: How does a movie like that get made? In this environment, where anything complicated or challenging or pessimistic or visionary get ironed out to appeal to the broadest possible market, how does a movie like that get made? That’s an expensive movie with a lot of moving parts — the producers, the cast, the special effects, the location shooting — how does a picture like that get made, and end up that good?
PRODUCER: Because Christopher Nolan gets no notes.
ME: What do you mean?
PRODUCER: I mean, the studio gives him no notes. None. Zero.
ME: The director gets no notes?
ME: So, you’re telling me, Christopher Nolan and his brother write the script —
PRODUCER: And then they shoot it. And the studio gives them no notes. They’ve given them the project, they trust their vision, and they let them shoot it the way they want.  And that’s how a movie like that gets made.


18 Responses to “Dark Knight postscript”
  1. catwalk says:

    that. is. COOOOL!!!

    i also imagine an echo of maniacal laughter after that last statement was made.

  2. They’ve given them the project, they trust their vision, and they let them shoot it the way they want. And that’s how a movie like that gets made.

    And you could hope that they might think that maybe, just maybe, if they took that same kind of chance with different types of directors, they might get more movies with many moving parts.

    Or is that asking too much.

  3. voiceofisaac says:

    How the heck does someone in Hollywood earn that kind of freedom? Who else has this kind of prestige, and how long did it take them to get it?

    • Todd says:

      Maybe because Nolan actually directed a movie called The Prestige, he fooled WB into thinking he had it.

      • laminator_x says:

        A film which also had both Bale and Caine, come to think of it.

        • Todd says:

          My preferred title for The Prestige is: Batman vs. Wolverine in 19th-Century Magician Smackdown! And, seeing as The Prestige went up against The Illusionist, you could add The Hulk into the mix now too. Who knew so many superheroes had their origins in 19th-century magic?

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably the big name guys like Cameron, Jackson, Spielberg. A studio would be crazy to tell them how they are going to create their next film.

    • capthek says:

      Actually I think there are some people who earn this kind of thing and then blow it. There was a time Tom Cruise could do whatever he wanted, after Pulp Fiction there were a number of people who could probably do whatever they want, Cameron after Titanic and probably back after T2. Look at any really big hit and there is someone who could probably do whatever they want after, and sometimes they do well and other times not so great. John Cleese after “a fish called Wanda” I bet you could figure a bunch out as well.

      Of course, if you come from a ton of money you could also do what you want and produce your own stuff like Lucas…

      • mitejen says:

        The problem with Lucas is that he NEEDS notes once in a while.

        ‘Your lead is a petulant crybaby and your dialogue blows. For god’s sake, think what you’re doing, man.’

  4. swan_tower says:

    So then the question becomes, to what infernal god did the Nolans sacrifice — or whose nads do they have in a jar — to let them get away with so much freedom?

  5. crypticpress says:

    I think the studio not giving them notes is how the Nolan’s get a movie like that made. If that was true for all movies, it wouldn’t be so rare. Many filmmakers that get that freedom blow it.

    Yes, there’s a lot of evidence that certain movies would’ve been better if not for the studio piping up and making absurd changes or demands, but there are plenty of people who need outside input, no matter where it comes from.

    I wish someone had the courage to give George Lucas notes. And that he had the sense to listen to them…

  6. I’m impressed, and the word “blackmail” came immediately to mind. lol

  7. ndgmtlcd says:

    I hope that this means that he’ll be able to do something good with “The Prisoner”.

  8. mitejen says:

    The question that immediately popped into my mind was ‘WHO is not giving the Nolans notes, and HOW do we get that person to do more projects so that more films are made for an audience with an average IQ above 45? Also, WHERE I can send a thank-you card to this person’s mother for their existence upon earth?’

  9. 55seddel says:

    I cant stop smiling!

  10. I guess this is a rare thing in Hollywood.
    It makes me happy.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hasn’t it always been in the Simpsons’ deal that they never had to listen to network notes? And Orson Welles got final cut on Citizen Kane.

    Good thing shit like that doesn’t happen more often.